Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Poems: "The Vegetables" -- by James McMichael

The Artichoke

She bore only the heart,   
Worked at the stem with her   
Fingers, pulling it to her,   
And into her, like a cord.

She would sustain him,   
Would cover his heart.   
The hairy needles
And the bigger leaves,

These she licked into shape,   
Tipping each with its point.   
He is the mud-flower,
The thorny hugger.

The Asparagus

She sent packs of great beasts to pass
Over him, trailing belly-fur and dust,   
Bending their nostrils to his frail spear.   
This was to toughen him. For what?   
Stupidly, like a squirrel, standing up,   
Looking here and there, looking to all sides,

He is cut down and taken away.
She can smell him steaming, his crowns   
Already tender, his spine giving in.
Now he is threatening to wither terribly,   
And slip from the water altogether,
And billow through the kitchen like prayer.

The Cauliflower

Her words clot in his head.
He presses himself to remember   
And feels the skin peel back,
The skull bleach, crack, fall away.

All that's left of him is the brain,
Its tissue knotting up to shade him,   
The pain of its light pulsing
How to move, how to move.


Before fog leaves the scrub-oak
Or the grasses of the downland,
Take dragonwort under the black alder,   
Take cockspur grass and henbane,   
The belladonna, the deadly nightshade.   
Free them as you would a spider's web,   
Singing over them: Out, little wen,
                            Out, little wen.
Sing this into the mouth of the woman.


I am the corn quail.   
What I do is quick.   
You will know only   
The muffled clucking,   
The scurry, the first   
Shiver of feathers   
And I will be up,   
I will be in your
Head with no way out,   
Wings beating at the   
Air behind your eyes.


The hope with   
water is that it
will conceal nothing,

that a clearness
will follow upon it   
like the clearness   
after much rain,

or the clearness   
where the air   
reaches to the river
and touches it,

where the rain   
falls from the trees   
into the river.

Bell Pepper

To find enough rooms for the gathering   
The walls go on alone not waiting   
For corners but thinking of sleeves
And how the wind fills them and the snow   
Fills them and how cold it is without   
Fires when there are not enough rooms.


It had been growing in her like vegetables.   
She was going into the ground where it could   
Do better, where she could have potatoes.

They would be small and easily mistaken   
For stones. It would fall to her to   
Sort them out, persuade them to stay

Close to her, comforting her, letting her   
Wear them on her body, in her hair,   
Helping her hold always very still.

*     *     *     *     *

James McMichael is emeritus professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Capacity (2006), a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award in Poetry; Each in a Place Apart (1994); The Lover's Familiar (1978); Four Good Things (1980); and The World at Large: New and Selected Poems (1996), in which the above poem appears. He has received multiple awards, including the 2007 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Foundation Writer's Award, the Arthur O. Rense Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ed Kemmick captures Montana characters (in print)

Shortly after Ed Kemmick moved from Minneapolis to Missoula to attend The University of Montana, he and a friend from New York fell under the spell of A.B. Gutherie's novel, The Big Sky.

"We wanted to be Boone Caudill and his friends Jim Deakins and Dick Summers," Kemmick writes. "In the afternoon, after our classes were over, we'd leave our dorm rooms in Duniway Hall and tramp up Hellgate Canyon. We'd build a fire in a swale not far from the river and sit there drinking quart bottles of Lucky Lager, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and palavering in our best imitation of our new heroes, larding our speech with 'I reckon,' 'this child' and 'I'm thinkin.'" They decided to live outside like their heroes, to camp out under the stars, to live on their own, "answerable to no one ... "

Fortunately for us (readers), that plan did not work out. Instead, Kemmick became a journalist and began to write about real, living Montana characters, folks like Dobro Dick, the cowboy and wandering musician who nudged Kemmick into putting together a collection of his stories -- which he did. That collection is titled, The Big Sky, By and By: True Tales, Real People and Strange Times in the Heart of Montana.

About the book, Russell Rowland (author of In Open Spaces and The Watershed Years) writes: "Ed Kemmick has an uncanny knack for finding interesting people and bringing them to life with words."

Hear Ed Kemmick talk about and read from The Big Sky, By and By Thursday evening at 6:30 ( or 7:30 (

Click here to find out more about Kemmick, access links to his Web site and a review of the book, and listen to the program online.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Poems: "Around Us" -- by Marvin Bell

We need some pines to assuage the darkness 
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of 
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after work,
and, if we keep them, then someone someday,
lying down after a walk
and supper, with the fire hole wet down,
the whole night sky set at a particular
time, without numbers or hours, will cause
a little sound of thanks--a zipper or a snap—
to close round the moment and the thought
of whatever good we did.

*     * *     *     *
Marvin Bell is a poet and teacher. He has taught at Oregon State  University, the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the University of Hawaii,  and the University of Washington. He currently teaches in the  writing program at Pacific University in Oregon. 
He has published nearly 20 books of poetry,  including Drawn by Stones, by Earth, by Things That Have Been in the Fire (1984), Vertigo: The Living Dead Man  Poems (2011), and Rampant (2004), in which  the above poem appears. He served as the first  poet laureate of the State of Iowa. His has also been  awarded Guggenheim and National Endowment of the Arts  fellowships, a Fulbright Award, and was a finalist  for the National Book Award. He currently lives in Port  Townsend, Washington.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Man Who Quit Money, by Mark Sundeen

Living on faith: A review of The Man Who Quit Money
by Chérie Newman

The title grabs your attention: The Man Who Quit Money. Intrigued, you open the book and read: "In the first year of the twenty-first century, a man standing by a highway in the middle of America pulled from his pocket his life savings -- thirty dollars -- laid it inside a phone booth, and walked away." He must have been on drugs or a nutcase, you think. But no, you discover, reading on: Daniel Suelo, a 39-year-old, well-educated and apparently rational man, had simply decided to act on his belief that he'd be taken care of if he followed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi: "If we embrace holy poverty very closely, the world will come to us and will feed us abundantly."

More than a decade before Suelo's life-changing decision, Mark Sundeen, the book's author, worked with him briefly in Moab, Utah. When Sundeen heard about Suelo's moneyless lifestyle, he was struck by the different paths they'd chosen. Intrigued, he tracked down his former co-worker, who was still living in the Moab area. The two men renewed their acquaintance by going dumpster diving, picking melons from an abandoned garden, and digging wild onions. It didn't take long to "harvest" enough food to last several days and pack it off to Suelo's residence: a cave situated on public lands located "a two-hour walk from pavement." Illumination inside it came from burning cotton cords floating in glass jars filled with vegetable oil, and the cooking was done on a ventilated "number-ten chili can." Living permanently on public land is illegal, and once, after Suelo was caught, he unsuccessfully argued his case before a judge. He paid his fine with hours of community service, and then settled into a smaller, more isolated cave.

Suelo has many strong opinions about capitalism and religion, which he expresses freely on his blog, accessing the Internet via a public library computer. Hostile readers have called him lazy, a freeloader, and worse. But Sundeen keeps a cool head as he weaves facts, timelines and anecdotes into a fascinating story, researching everything from Suelo's grade-school years to the history of banking. What he discovered about the defining moment in Suelo's life will give readers a lot to think about. Ultimately, Suelo decided, our attachment to money is about our fear of death: "Money perpetuated the fantasy of immortal earthly life, the illusion that we could determine the future." Sundeen concludes that, despite his critics, Suelo is still a productive citizen, a sort of "freelance philosopher." He just doesn't receive -- or want -- a paycheck.

Listen to Mark Sundeen talk about and read from The Man Who Quit Money.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Poems: "Sarabande" -- by Norma Cole

“and then looks at
the stars” from the
bed in the ambulance

looks up at boughs of
trees shifting quickly
lit in blackness

blackening soft, deep
siren’s song—she died
several times that night

and only in the weeks
to come started and
started to come back

then forward which is
real life

*     *     *     *     *

Norma Cole is a painter, translator, and poet who has authored several collections, including: Natural Light (2009), Spinoza in Her Youth (2002), The Vulgar Tongue (2000), and  Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems (2009), in which the above poem is printed. 

Cole has been awarded a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Gertrude Stein Awards, the Robert D. Richardson Non-Fiction Award, among other awards. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at the University of San Francisco. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Michael Earl Craig, (not a cowboy) poet and farrier

"The book provides many poems that are worth sharing with non-poets, not only because the lines are enjoyable, but also because the candor and straightforward nature of the work dispels the myth that poetry is abstract and inaccessible."— Front Porch

Thin Kimono continues Michael Earl Craig's singular breed of brilliant absurdist poetry, utterly and masterfully slanting the realities of daily existence.

This week TWQ producer Chérie Newman talks with Michael Earl Craig ("Earl") about different types of poetry (lyric, narrative, prose... ) and his writing process. He also reads a few poems from Thin Kimono, and wonders why people keep making a certain comment, over and over again, after his readings.

Find out more about Michael Earl Craig and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Poems: "The Local Language" -- by Ralph Angel

The way she puts her fingers to his chest when she greets him.

The way an old man quiets himself,

or that another man waits, and waits a long time, before speaking.
It’s in the gaze that steadies, a music

he grows into—something about
Mexico, I imagine, how he first learned about light there.

It’s in the blank face of every child,
a water that stands still amid the swirling current,

water breaking apart as it leaves the cliff and falls forever
through its own, magnificient window.

The way a young woman holds out a cupped hand, and doves come to her.

The way a man storms down the street as if to throw open every door.

And the word she mouths to herself as she looks up from her book—for
that word, as she repeats it,

repeats it.

 *     *     *     *     *

Ralph Angel was born in Seattle and earned his BA from the University of Washington and MFA from the University of California at Irvine. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Angel has authored four volumes of poetry, including Neither World (1995), which won the James Laughlin Award, and Twice Removed (2001), in which the above poem is printed. His translation of Federico Garcia Lorca's Poem of the Deep Song won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Angel has also received the Pushcart Prize and a Fulbright Fellowship.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kelly Kathleen Ferugson, author of 'My Life As Laura'

When she was six years old, Kelly Ferguson's mother gave her a boxed set of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, and These Happy Golden Years. As it turned out, those books influenced Kelly's life so much that, in middle age, she set off driving across the country wearing a voluminous prairie dress. From Wisconsin to Minnesota, South Dakota to Missouri, she explored Laura’s past and her own.

During this week's program, Kelly will talk about why she took that trip and read from her new memoir, My Life As Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself. Part travelogue, part memoir and part social commentary, My Life as Laura shows how a relationship with a pioneer girl who lived in little houses long ago can give a sense of purpose for today.

Find out more about Kelly Kathleen Ferguson and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Poems: "Planetarium" -- by Adrienne Rich

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.
A woman in the shape of a monster   
a monster in the shape of a woman   
the skies are full of them

a woman      ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments   
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover   
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled   
like us
levitating into the night sky   
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness   
ribs chilled   
in those spaces    of the mind

An eye,

          ‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
          from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                            encountering the NOVA   

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

             Tycho whispering at last
             ‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see   
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain   
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse   
pouring in from Taurus

         I am bombarded yet         I stand

I have been standing all my life in the   
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most   
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep      so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15   
years to travel through me       And has   
taken      I am an instrument in the shape   
of a woman trying to translate pulsations   
into images    for the relief of the body   
and the reconstruction of the mind.

*     *     *     *     *
Adrienne Rich was a prolific and critically-acclaimed American poet who published over two dozen poetry collections, among them Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (2010), The School Among the Ruins (2004), An Atlas of the Difficult World (1991), The Fact of a Doorframe (1984) (in which the above poem can be found). She also wrote nonfiction, including Bread, Blood and Poetry (1986) and Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976), and was an outspoken feminist and lesbian activist.

Among her many honors, Rich received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship. She also served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 1997, Rich refused the National Medal of Arts in protest against the House of Representatives’ vote to end the National Endowment for the Arts and other anti-art policies of the Clinton Administration. For the last three decades, Rich lived in Santa Cruz, CA, and taught at Scripps University and Stanford University, among others. She passed away on March 27, 2012.